Sunday, February 23, 2014

Hole in the Wall

Weather: Air is still warm and dry; last snow, 2/04/2014. The relative humidity levels in Los Alamos have fallen below 10% in the past two weeks. Here, the grasses are fading as the air sucks out the remaining moisture that has kept dried chlorophyll in suspension.

What’s still green: Juniper and other evergreens, prickly pear; leaves on German iris, yuccas, garlic, hollyhocks, winecup mallow, Saint John’s wort, vinca, coral bells, cheat grass; some rose stems green. Tansy mustard and alfilerillo have been germinating.

What’s red: Cholla, coral beardtongue leaves, some rose stems.

What’s grey or blue: Four-winged saltbush, snow-in-summer, pinks, golden hairy aster leaves.

What’s yellow or brown: Arborvitae.

What’s blooming inside: Zonal geraniums, aptenia.

Animal sightings: Rabbit was out this week. House fly has hatched.

Weekly update: Work continues on the block wall in the village. This past week, the men finished the wall on the south side and added the columns. They also raised the height at the entrance where the drive goes down toward the flat lands by the river. On each side, they are installing wooden grills.

There are many reasons to pierce a wall. In the past, when walls served military purposes, holes with iron bars were made so sentries could check visitors before they opened the gates.

More recently, people have had to include holes for utilities especially gas meters.

Openings are not as challenging as arches, but they share their structural requirements with windows and doors. Something has to support stones or blocks over the opening.

The men building the local wall left a gap in the blocks, then placed wooden posts. The upright posts themselves will support the blocks when the next course of block is laid.

One local variation has been using wagon wheels. They’re stronger and more durable than wood.

Some, no doubt, use them because they evoke associations with the west of Hollywood.

However, one of the oldest walls in the village has an embedded wheel.

Some, including the people who built one of the arches shown in the next to the last photograph in the posting for February 2, place wagon wheels in high openings on each side of an arch.

These echo the window openings popularized by Andrea Palladio in rural villas outside Venice in the middle 1500's. That was the period when Spain dominated Europe with the wealth coming from the Americas.

His openings included a large central window with a half circle above, and flanked by two narrower lites. The proportions may have been derived from three-part Medieval altar screens. Palladio’s greatest contribution was giving a sense of "rightness" to a form that still is being used.

In another wall down the road, the wooden grill shown in the second picture is next to the half arch of the central Palladian opening.

This wall required greater skill that the block wall in the village. The rocks are closely fitted, with little obvious mortar, and no vertical supports for the stones above the opening.

This was built ten or fifteen years ago, and, as I remember, took as much time to create as the one that’s been rising for the past two months.

Photographs: Most photographs taken in the past few years in the immediate area. One is from Chamita, and the one below on the road to Ojo Caliente.

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